Like my last Smackdown review, I wont be ignoring the massive elephant in the ring, this time the apparent invasion of ex NXT rookies.
Along with the current Undertaker attack storyline, this is perhaps the most exciting wrestling programming in some time! It was no surprise to see current NXT champion Wade Barratt approaching the ring. He has said he is after the WWE Championship now, and so him heading to the ring to intimidate John Cena was no surprise. What was completely unexpected was how he was joined by the rest of the former NXT roster in such a violent, destructive segment.
This whole segment was pregnant with incredibly potent imagery and unlike anything for a long time in a wrestling ring in its unpredictability and scale. Reminiscent of the nWo, this band of outcasts (literally, seen as most of the ex-rookies were deemed unfit to be WWE superstars) attacked and dismantled everything WWE, it’s superstars (including the ‘face of the company’), it’s officials, it’s announcers, even it’s ring and equipment. Immediately this smacks of not only invasion, but revolution and catastrophe: the new breed snatching the torch from the current, established, older stars.
One of the most evocative scenes came around 3.09 in the first video above, reminiscent, for those familiar, of the Maenads in the Bacchae (something my good friend Luke Healey reminded me of), which made the scene one of great and genuine helplessness and desperation. The uniform armbands are also quite powerful. Seeing them made the ominous events immediately obvious, and stopped us from questioning the involvement of faces like Daniel Bryan and Justin Gabriel. It was instantly apparent that the ex-rookies were working together in some sort of coup, led by Wade Barratt, whose subtle nod cast him as leader. We also saw Daniel Bryan spit in Cena’s face, shouting “You are not better than me!” This further drums home the idea that these outlaws are challenging the notions WWE hold for what makes a ‘superstar.’ Brilliant.
The lack of commentary made the viewing seem all the more substantial in its importance. Indeed, we were left to commentate ourselves, and I for one couldn’t help shouting non-specific, confused but excitedly intrigued exclamations at the screen! The same can be said for the audience. Pretty much uniformally, there was a mix of shock, awe, and admiration for the segment, and this is obviously shows how successful the segment was, inspiring wholehearted interest in what they are seeing and will potentially see.
This segment creates instant questions about existing faces/heels, and fecund opportunity for face/heel turns along enemy lines. For instance, will fan-favourite Daniel Bryan now turn heel? Will Wade Barratt turn on his mentor Chris Jericho? If so, it would surely lead to a Jericho face-turn. Also, while his involvement may be simply due to being picked by the viewers, CM Punk was seen to fight back against the ex-rookies, almost as if trying to help John Cena. Another face-turn? It’s certainly too early to say about all of this, but it’s surely interesting!
On top of this, there is the possibility that it was this band of disgruntled outlaws that took out the Undertaker. If this is true, it is combining with another massive storyline to make perhaps the biggest, most mouth-watering storylines ever. However, they have to be careful with how it plays out. It will be a success as long as it is slowly-developing, giving it time to fester and increase in tension exponentially, rather than revealed quickly to bodge together a huge main event for Fatal Four Way. If it were up to me, i’d have the path of destruction and war continue all the way to Summerslam in August, only unveiling the culprits after Money In The Bank (in July) and give it a finalé deserving of a ‘big four’ PPV. If this is done, it will be an amazing storyline, one of the best ever.
Now, to the rest of the show. In complete contrast to the incredible last 15 minutes, RAW was a pretty mediocre affair this week, thanks in much part, to the viewers. I have said in a previous post how wary I was of a ‘viewers choice’ episode, and this came to, unfortunately, prove me right. While WWE should take some responsibility for it, unsubtly leading viewers to certain decisions (asking who Sheamus should face right after an intense segment with Kane springs to mind), it really is the fault of those who watched the show live. It goes to show that if you give any sort of sway to the viewers, they’ll give you a poor product. The body slam challenge, Kozlov and Santino dancing, Khali and Hornswoggle tagging. It was lame. Thankfully, there were a couple of good matches/segments that made the show watchable up until it’s gripping finish. Kane vs Sheamus was more than watchable and played on the current Undertaker storyline, while the tag match of Miz/Ryder vs Truth/Morrison was also decent. Drew McIntyre didn’t really have a match as much as a brawl with Matt Hardy, but that progressed their intense feud well too. Was it just me, or did Matt eat some of Drew’s hair? He’s certainly a little weird. Apart from that, there really isn’t much to say about the episode. The multi-brand, viewers choice element robbed us of substantial feud progression and substituted it with what was mostly tired and overstaged comedy segments (though Dusty Rhodes delivered some funny A-Team lines and ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund had some zingers of his own).
I would really implore WWE not to do another Viewers Choice episode, but aside from that, keep up the excellent storytelling we’ve seen recently. As of now, all three of RAW, Smackdown and NXT are must-sees!